This project builds on an NSF-funded program which engaged youth in the creation of art-science experiences that use the biology and the experiences of migratory birds as a means for communicating the impact of a changing climate. The preliminary success of this program at increasing participants' science identity, connectedness to nature, and feelings of efficacy about environmental action inspired the current project's goal of studying the impact of this youth-led climate communication on other young learners. High school-aged youth in the Denver Metro Area will be engaged in a 10-day summer intensive program where they will be guided by near-peer mentors and domain scientists in studying migratory birds to better understand how bird biology intersects with changing local environmental characteristics, and in translating their STEM understanding into interdisciplinary art-science exhibits that will engage K-4th grade learners. The exhibits will contain a mix of youth-designed materials intended to give audiences a firsthand understanding of the impact of a changing climate on birds and their migrations. The youth-created interactive exhibits will be designed to fit into shippable trunks which, in partnership with the Environment for the Americas' World Migratory Bird Day events, will be sent to informal learning locations across the Americas where the migratory species travel, at times when the species will be in those locations. The traveling exhibits will help both the youth creators and the youth audiences perceive how local habitats and changes to them are part of larger, global scientific phenomena like migration and climate change.
The project engages undergraduate near-peer mentors, high school-aged students, and researchers in the design and implementation of a participatory action research study of the co-design process and the impact of the exhibits on target audiences (K-4th grade learners). The purpose of using this methodology is to ensure that the voices, interests, and perspectives of the diverse youth participants influence both the exhibits themselves as well as the research design. There is currently a lack of climate change messaging produced for, and by, non-dominant audiences, and so this project is deliberately working with Latine female-identifying youth and youth who do not identify with traditional gender roles. The youth creators will be engaged in co-designing the data collection approach that will be used with K-4th grade visitors to the Denver Botanic Gardens, pulling from mixed-methods qualitative approaches such as field observations, focus group discussions, and creative embedded data collection (e.g., interactive experiences built into the digital aspects of the exhibits). Data generated from this study will allow the mixed-generational team to gain insight into what aspects of the youth-designed exhibits impact the K-4th grade learners and how. Impact of the co-design work on the youth creators will be assessed via pre/post science identity surveys, observations made by research personnel, and focus group discussions. The intellectual merit of this work rests in both understanding how learners from non-dominant groups can be impacted by experiencing climate communication exhibits designed by near-peers, and in the participatory creation of a model for assessing that impact. Results will be disseminated via a range of science education, informal science education, and climate communication forums. Broader impacts on learners derive from the plans to exhibit the interactive trunks at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science as well as informal learning locations across the Americas.
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